“Dances with Words” is produced by English Professor Alan Weltzien. The series, free and open to the public, provides the community with a unique opportunity to listen to writers reading their own works.
Neely received an MA from the Literature and Environment program at the University of Nevada, Reno, as well as an MFA in nonfiction from Hunter College and an MFA in poetry from Columbia University.
There are ten pieces in Neely’s first essay collection, “Coast Range: A Collection from the Pacific Edge,” where he combines lyrical essay and poetry.
His inspiration for the book ignited when he became a recipient of PEN Northwest’s Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency, where he spent six months living in the woods of Oregon’s Rogue River Canyon.
Neely read “A Guide to Coyote Management,” a lyrical essay, followed by “Slow Flame,” a memoir, at the event.
“A Guide to Coyote Management,” his earliest piece, was written when he was 22. Neely describes this as his most fun and potentially most interesting work in the entire book, combining clever satire and charm.
“My advice to young writers is to not be sensitive to rejection. Always look for the next opportunity. Apply for things. You may not know it, but even the best writers get rejected,” said Neely after the reading while answering questions from UMW students and community members.
His work has been published in “High Country News,” “Audubon Magazine,” “Orion,” “The Georgia Review,” “Mother Jones,” “The South,” and “Kenyon Review.”
Neely also spoke about his writing process during the event.
“Have an image in mind. Often if I have the ending first, then I know I can write it. Have in mind what captures you most and go with it.”
His next book, “Alta California: A Journey on Foot to Rediscover the Golden State,” describes his twelve-week journey from San Diego to San Francisco on foot on the route of the first overland Spanish expedition into California in 1769.
The “Dances with Words” series will continue on Oct. 4, 2018 featuring Bernard Quetchenbach, a nonfiction author and professor at Montana State University Billings, and Cara Chamberlain, a poet also from Billings, Mont.
For more information, please contact Alan Weltzien by email at [email protected] or call 406-683-7431.